Marian Gaborik had three goals and an assist in his first game with Sean Avery as a linemate, and Henrik Lundqvist made nine saves in relief of backup Martin Biron to lift the New York Rangers to a 6-5 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
The Islanders, playing for the first time since snapping a 14-game losing streak (0-11-3) on Friday, couldn’t make it two in a row in the opener of a home-and-home series with their biggest rival. The Islanders erased two two-goal leads — including one in the third period — but still lost.
It was Gaborik’s second hat trick of the season and 12th in the NHL. His third goal of the night gave the Rangers a 6-5 lead with 5:25 remaining after Michael Grabner and Blake Comeau scored 1:41 apart to get the Islanders even.
Erik Christensen, the third member of the Rangers’ top line, had a goal and assist, and Ryan Callahan and Brandon Prust also scored as the Rangers won for the fifth time in seven games. Avery had three assists after replacing Alex Frolov, who was dropped to the fourth line.
Gaborik has four goals in two games following a bout with the flu, and Callahan has three goals in four games. Gaborik gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead with a power-play goal with 3:36 left in the second and stretched the advantage to 5-3 at 3:31 of the third off a backhanded pass from Avery.
Grabner made it 5-4 with 7:31 left.
Zenon Konopka scored for the first time in nearly a year, and Matt Moulson and Rob Schremp added goals for the Islanders (5-13-5), who also erased a 2-0 deficit. Rick DiPietro, making his fourth straight start, stopped 20 shots. He ended the Islanders’ losing streak with a shutout of New Jersey.
Lundqvist’s night off didn’t last long as he was called upon to bail out Biron when the Islanders grabbed a 3-2 lead with 7:30 left in the second period on Schremp’s goal. The Rangers’ No. 1 netminder had little to do the rest of the frame. His teammates scored twice 1:30 apart to go back in front, and Lundqvist faced only one shot – a drive in the final 30 seconds of the period.
The Islanders began their first comeback when Konopka snapped his long scoring drought with a broken-play goal with 48.6 seconds remaining in the first. It was Konopka’s first goal in 57 games, dating to Jan. 2 when he was with Tampa Bay.
The Islanders killed off the Rangers’ early power play in the second and withstood a high-energy shift by Callahan, in which the small forward landed several hits in the offensive zone.
The Islanders got the puck up ice, and John Tavares made a crisp, behind-the-back backhanded pass from the left wing boards to Moulson, near the right post. With Biron out of position, Moulson calmly lifted a shot past him to make it 2-2 at 9:18.
The onslaught continued just over 3 minutes later when Schremp put the Islanders ahead and ended Biron’s night. Biron, who played last season with the Islanders, allowed three goals on 21 shots.
Avery played a strong overall game. He had a prime chance off a pass from Gaborik less than 2 minutes in, but DiPietro smothered his one-timed shot – leaving Avery shaking his arms in frustration.
The noted agitator got onto the score sheet with 8:11 left in the first period, assisting on Christensen’s goal.
The Rangers doubled their lead during a delayed-penalty call after Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek dumped rookie forward Derek Stepan. Brandon Dubinsky gathered the loose puck and quickly moved it to Callahan for a goal with 2:53 left in the first.